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Theater Reviews and Commentary from Karen Salkin

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Since I believe that, in most cases, the majority rules, I must report that on opening night of the Pasadena Playhouse production of “Can-Can,” the audience went nuts with appreciation.

So it doesn’t much matter that my friend and I thought it was kind-of hokey. (It was originally produced on Broadway in 1953, after all.) Actually, most old musicals are a tad goony, but I usually love that stuff anyway. I enjoyed this, as well, just not that much.

To me, it was like a show designed to make children laugh, and not for intelligent adults. It was of that old school where Broadway actors enunciated and characters were written like fools, I’m not really sure why.

can can
photo by Craig Schwartz

As escapist entertainment, though, this show totally succeeded. Cole Porter’s music is always great to hear, the sets were clever and colorful, the musicians were spot on, and most of the ensemble was extremely talented. The audience left in a very upbeat mood, with a lot of laughing and all-around mirth, which is all that really counts, as far as I’m concerned.

But if you want to know the things that bothered me, I guess it’s my job to break it down for you. First of all, I’m a major old movie buff, and I’ve seen the Frank Sinatra-Shirley MacLaine-Juliet Prowse version at least a couple of times, and loved it. Everything was beautiful about it: costumes, sets, productions numbers, actors, songs, you name it.

This was not exactly the same story, so I was confused the whole time. Until I read the Director’s Notes in my program, when I got home. It turns out, the director, David Lee, and his writing partner, Joel Fields, re-wrote about 80% of the script! Including changing characters! Not my cup of tea.

My feeling is either do the show as it was written and as the viewers expect to see it, or write something new. Or warn the public that it’s a new version of it, as I’m doing for you now. I was getting a brain cramp from trying to figure out what’s really supposed to be happening.

On the same note, I don’t know if the film is the real deal. It came after the original Broadway production and films are notorious for changing things around. Either way, I don’t enjoy being confused.

The writers are majorly accomplished in the field of television, so I’m sure they know what they’re doing far better than I. The changes were just annoying, in my opinion. They added strange/confusing elements, such as a café performer who performs songs in the form of flatulence. Abe Burrows, the original author, must be rolling over in his grave.

[David Lee noted that Le Petomane, the Fartiste, was a real performer with the Moulin Rouge back in the day, but is it necessary to include that in this show? Would he mind if I re-wrote “Frasier” to include Vanilla Ice just because he’s of the time? Actually, I never saw the show, so he just may have been included anyway.]

Despite all this, it’s an entertaining evening of theatre. And now you guys will enjoy it more because you’ve been warned about the imperfections.

Can-Can running through August 5 Pasadena Playhouse 39 S. El Molino Ave. Pasadena

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